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Despite F grade, parents support Hernando elementary school during open house

HILL 'N DALE — With his children in tow on a sweltering Thursday afternoon, Floyd Thomas toured the campus during the annual back-to-school open house at Eastside Elementary School.

On his mind: the new school year and all it promises.

Not on his mind: the F grade the state slapped on Eastside last month — the first failing mark for a Hernando County school.

"My daughter was all straight A's," Thomas said, referring to his second-grade daughter, Ta'leya. "I think it's more about parent involvement — what you do with your kids, how you teach them, how you push them."

He said he had no hesitation about sending either of his two children to the school.

"The staff was wonderful here last year," he said. "They say it's even better."

Just about every parent at the open house said they were confident the school would be able to turn things around and offer a high-quality education.

Patsy Collett has two grandchildren at the school — a fifth-grader and a first-grader. She said she was surprised to get a call about the school grade, noting that she felt Eastside did well with the kids last year.

"I think they just need time to get it fixed," she said. "They've got a new principal; they're going to work real hard to fix it."

Collett was referring to new principal Mary LeDoux, who came to Eastside from Brooksville Elementary. With a strong track record, LeDoux was moved to the struggling school east of Brooksville to replace Tim Urban shortly after school grades were released.

Even as about two dozen parents have opted to move their children from Eastside to Pine Grove Elementary this year, LeDoux said most were supportive in meetings and conversations Thursday afternoon.

"They've been overwhelmingly happy about being here," she said. "They talk about Eastside being a family and wanting to stay here because younger kids went here and this is a community school."

Bruce Harrell, Collett's fifth-grade grandchild, said he likes Eastside, with one exception.

"The only thing that I don't like about it is that they started a dress code," he said.

Beau Mann, 40, had no apprehension about sending his two kids to the school.

"I don't," he said. "Again, I have to really go back to parental involvement."

Debbie Piazza, a former substitute teacher with a second-grader at the school, offered up a quick defense of the school and its teachers.

"They're all good," she said. "They're excellent and they care about their students."

Teachers and staff at the school have taken notice of the support.

"I have not had one parent come to me and say, 'I'm worried,' " said Mary Zacharias, a Title I parent educator at Eastside.

John Pennington, an instructional practices coach, said he has noticed a change in the teachers.

"Everybody seems to be excited about the new year and positive that we can turn things around for the better," he said.

Danny Valentine can be reached at dvalentine@tampabay.com or (352) 848-1432. On Twitter: @HernandoTimes.

Despite F grade, parents support Hernando elementary school during open house 08/15/13 [Last modified: Thursday, August 15, 2013 9:58pm]
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